Family of woman who died after 10 misdiagnoses call for GP watchdog

  • 31/07/2017

An Upper Hutt woman who lost her daughter after a missed diagnosis says we need an independent watchdog to protect us from doctors who get it wrong.

The Medical Council says it already does that but many who have dealt with the New Zealand health system have come away still feeling a bit sick.

Suzee McEwan went to 10 different GPs across six practices, in two cities, Auckland and Napier, for excessive tiredness and stomach pain. She was constantly sent home and told she just needed to rest.

After four years, she was seen by a medical intern who sent her away for some tests. She was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer.

Two years, an operation and six rounds of chemotherapy later, Ms McEwan died.

Her mother Margaret Dynes has complained to the Health and Disability Commission about how long it took doctors to find the real problem with Ms McEwan, but the complaints weren't upheld.

Now she's created a petition hoping to instate a new watchdog for GPs, to hold them more accountable for their actions.

"It would help not just Suzee, I think it would help everybody," Ms Dynes told Three's The Project.

"It's like when you're driving down the road and if there's nobody around and you think that you're not going to get caught, you're not quite so observant of... conforming to the law.

"I think general practitioners could do with something like that, because they're unmonitored in their practices unlike every other position."

Currently complaints are made to the Health and Disability Commission, which investigates and makes recommendations.

Normally the recommendations are passed on to the New Zealand Medical Council, where all Kiwi doctors are registered.

The council can then make changes, including revoking a doctor's right to practice medicine.

Chairman Andrew Connolly isn't keen on Ms Dynes' idea, saying it would "promote a silo-type mentality".

"It's very important we have a system-wide approach. Fragmentation would lead to greater chances of things falling through the cracks," he told The Project.

As the complaints Ms Dyne made weren't upheld, the 10 GPs who misdiagnosed Ms McEwan are still practising without any repercussions.

Ms Dynes' motivation is simple: to make sure no one dies like her daughter did.

"If this can help anybody out there, and make changes, then Suzee won't have died in vain."